I have often given more than an idle thought to seeing an acupuncturist for medicinal relief of occasional ailments. As the saying goes, “There’s more than one way to skin a cat,” and like many folks, I despise big Pharma and know that often, though admittedly not always, there are alternatives to the drugs and pills that are typically dispensed by western doctors as the solution to a problem.
Through a little internet research, I found the basic description of acupuncture as a form of Chinese medicine, practiced for centuries and based on the theory that energy, chi, flows through and around your body along pathways called meridians. Illness is thought to occur when something blocks or unbalances the chi. Acupuncturists use thin needles to penetrate the skin at certain points in the body to bring balance back to the body and regain the flow of chi throughout the system.
Toni Haugen is a Master of Oriental Medicine and a Diplomat of Oriental Medicine. As such she has been practicing acupuncture for six years, three in Chicago and the past three years in Western New York. Three weeks ago she planted her roots by opening Queen City Health and Wellness at 135 Delaware Avenue at the corner of Delaware and Mohawk.
She is the sole owner and operator of the business but her office is home to massage therapist, Reba Allen, and another acupuncturist. Haugen loves her new location stating, “I cannot stress enough how excited I am to be downtown. I am so happy to be here and bring acupuncture to a more accessible place.”
Haugen describes her practice as a “general practice” where one can seek relief from a variety of ailments. She has found that people come to her office because either they have not gotten any relief elsewhere and feel they are “at the end of their rope,” or they want to find a less invasive way to treat their problems, and want an alternative to medication and surgery. She helps a variety of patients, but notices the most common issues in Buffalo tend to deal with pain, especially in the shoulders, knees and back; headaches, particularly migraines that have been hard to manage through western medicine; symptoms and side effects of chemotherapy and radiation treatments in oncology patients; anxiety and depression; and gastro-intestinal issues.
Acupuncture is a holistic form of treatment and Chinese medicine, according to Haugen, and treats the underlying causes of disease rather than the symptoms or side effects. Practitioners do not just look at physical ailments but also consider one’s lifestyle, including social life, day-to-day activities, other physical issues and ailments, diet, and exercise habits.
An initial visit to see Haugen would take up to an hour and a half and include some paperwork; a discussion of personal and health history; and a diagnostic evaluation including a checking of pulse, palpating the abdomen, and a looking at the tongue and ears. The appropriate treatment would then follow with needles into the skin at certain points. While most people associate needles with pain, Haugen describes the sensation as minimally a slight pinch, with a typical patient response of, “Oh, that’s it?” She says it is common to then feel a dull-achy sensation, but that should subside soon after treatment. She always tells her patients that if anything is too much or uncomfortable to just say no. It should never be a negative experience.
While Haugen sees patients for specific ailments, she finds that many of her patients remain in her care for long-term maintenance, ideally visiting four times a year for routine check-ups. Her patients routinely call her throughout the year to assist with problems like heartburn after a bad day of unhealthy eating. She has noticed that many people with high-pressure jobs frequently visit to manage their stress and anxiety, finding that they sleep better and are more focused as a result.
Lewiston resident Debbie Lytle sought the service of an acupuncturist years ago to relieve her chronic problems with allergies and sinus distress. Lytle had four sessions with a now retired acupuncturist in Niagara Falls for these issues. In her words, “It was truly amazing. There were a couple spots on my ear where he inserted the needles. As soon as he put the pin in I felt my sinuses drain and I felt immediate relief. It was then that I knew that acupuncture really works.” Lytle has since been to visit an acupuncturist for other ailments as well, and feels confident in the care that she receives.
Haugen describes acupuncture as, “Quality of life preventative care.” Patients are always encouraged to also see their general physician. She says, “Acupuncture is a great integrative medicine. When people and physicians work together and put egos aside, the best care is provided for the benefit of the patient.”
More and more insurance companies are covering acupuncture in their plans. Haugen sees a lot of her patients using flexible-spending accounts and health care spending accounts, HSAs, in her office. She expects within the next six months to be able to process insurance through her office, however now she is able to provide an itemized “super-bill” to patients to submit to their insurance carrier for reimbursement.
Queen City Health and Wellness is now accepting patients. Give their office a call at (716) 218-9338. They will be happy to answer any questions you might have. You can also find more information on their website at queencityacupuncture.com, or on their Facebook page.
Ours is society of excess. Generally speaking, Americans eat too much, drink too much and sleep too little. The result is a nation of unhealthy and chronically ailed individuals who all too often seek relief in the form of the pill, simply fending off the real problem. Finding alternative, holistic solutions may be one step in the right direction for many of us to lead to a healthier, happier and potentially longer existence in this world.